Hosts revive as Kuwait on the precipice
Host nation Qatar have kick-started their campaign at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup with a deserved 2-0 victory over a disappointing China PR. A dynamic double from striker Yusef Ahmed delighted the Khalifa Stadium crowd in a complete form reversal from their opening defeat against Uzbekistan last Friday. In today's earlier match, Uzbekistan are on the verge of qualification after scoring a 2-1 win over a somewhat unlucky Kuwait, with the Gulf Cup champions left staring at early elimination. Uzbekistan can guarantee progression by collecting a point in their final outing against China PR who, along with Qatar, sit on three points.
Uzbekistan 2-1 Kuwait, Al Gharafa Stadium, Doha
Maksim Shatskikh 41, Server Djeparov 65 (Uzbekistan); Bader Al Mutwa 49 pen (Kuwait)
A goal in each half was enough for Uzbekistan to continue their perfect record, though the result in the latter match meant they will have to wait until the final round to ensure progression. Without reaching the attacking heights of their victory against Qatar on the opening day of the tournament, Uzbekistan were nevertheless good value for their win in today’s encounter. The central Asian nation should have opened the scoring early on through Odil Ahmedov – scorer of the spectacular opening goal of the tournament – but he put his close-range header over the crossbar. They did however break the deadlock four minutes before the interval as Maksim Shatskikh’s free-kick deflected past goalkeeper Yaqoub Al Taher. The match tempo increased on the back of an equaliser from Kuwait’s talismanic Bader Al Mutwa, who scored from the penalty spot soon after the interval following a foul on Hamad Nayef. However, a fine strike from Uzbek icon Server Djeparov midway through the second half sealed the match.
China PR 0-2 Qatar, Khalifa Stadium, Doha
Yusef Ahmed 27, 45
After their disappointing opening defeat against Uzbekistan, Qatar bounced back in emphatic fashion with an impressive win against a China PR side who could only produce a largely error-strewn performance. A lively first half saw Gao Lin and Zhao Peng spurn goalscoring opportunities, while at the other end of the pitch Sebastian Soria and Yusef Ahmed were a constant menace. Ahmed it was who broke the deadlock with a stunning strike from outside the penalty area, before doubling the lead in the shadows of half-time to all but end the contest against a deflated China PR.
Yusef Ahmed, Qatar
Collecting a lofted forward pass on his thigh, the prolific Qatar forward swivelled in one motion and hit a swerving unstoppable volley into the roof of goalkeeper Zeng Cheng's net from just outside the penalty area, for a goal which is likely to be one of the enduring moments of Qatar 2011.
13 – The number of AFC Asian Cup matches Qatar had gone without victory dating back to 1988 until today’s 2-0 triumph over China PR.
What they said
“This is a big tournament, who wins this tournament is the best team. Every team at this tournament is very strong and I hope the quality of the football does not get less. I think we can cause some surprises and I hope Uzbekistan will be champion in this tournament, but there are many other good teams here so it will be difficult,” Uzbekistan coach Vadim Abramov.
"We wanted to show the real face of our team and the players have done that. They have shown their potential and I'm very proud of their performance. We will try to do the same against Kuwait and qualify for the next stage," Qatar coach Bruno Metsu.